Monday, December 2, 2013

Inspiration from PInterest...

I have had one of those mornings.  Before I went to bed last night, I planned my activities for today.  I was looking forward to getting some special things done.  When I woke up, however, my allergies and my fatigue had caught up with me.  I tried to get in gear. but I ended up frittering away my precious morning hours.  I even indulged a craving for junk food, and, of course, that did not give me the healthy fuel that I needed.

I finally went out for a 50 minute stroll with the dog.  The weather was dreary.  I could not make my best time.  However, it felt good to be steadily moving in the outdoors.  There's something about being outside that so often soothes and energizes me.

When I came back, I was struck by how true this saying on Pinterest is, especially for those of us who have chronic illness.  True, we have days when we wake up with "normal" energy. The weather is pleasant and beckons us outside to walk or run or to the gym.  Our brains are clear, and we move efficiently from task to task.  Let's face it though.  We have many days when our physical strength and energy are low.  Weather fronts are moving through, and our bones ache.  Our minds are distracted by the pain of our bodies, and we can't manage our tasks as well.

Even on those days, there is usually a little something we can do to accomplish our work and to move toward our life's goals.  It may not be much, but it is something, and, if we do it, we will feel better about our day.  Setting little goals and doing them can do much to lift our spirits and add to our physical well being.  The goals might be as small as stretching for ten minutes,  making one healthy, homemade dish to go with a takeout meal, or finishing one step in a larger project.

Here are five random thoughts I have for dealing with low energy days through movement:

1)  Test your energy level for the day by walking or moving for a ten minute period.  If your activity tires you more than it energizes you, it might be time to rest.  If it energizes you, you might be able to move on to another task that requires physical or mental energy, and another, and so forth.  
2)  The reality of a chronic illness is that you will have more energy on some days than you do on others.  In addition, some people with chronic illness fight depression, either because of effects of the illness on the brain or because they are simply frustrated with their condition.  Depression begets inactivity and inactivity begets more depression.  Fatigue begets inactivity and, over time, inactivity begets more fatigue.  The fastest ways to break these cycles is to include at least a little healthy movement in each day.  Don't overdo, but don't underdo, either.
3)  Celebrate even small victories.
4) Weather permitting, spend at least ten to fifteen minutes a day outside.  do this year round, not just in spring and summer.
5) As the caption on the image says, remember that if we wait for perfect conditions, we'll never get anything done.



Saturday, October 19, 2013

Health Diary...

Do you keep a diary of your physical and emotional symptoms, as well as other pertinent information?  I'm horrible about keeping up with one, but I benefit when I do track my health.   For one thing, I am able to make connections between between how I feel on a particular day and factors that may influence my daily well-being.  For another, I am able to give my doctor a true picture of my health.  I lead a busy life -- as we all do nowadays -- and I can forget exactly when a cough started or a bout of unusual fatigue began.  My diary provides the answers for both my physician and myself.  Not only that, my doctor can see how my autoimmune issues do or don't affect my daily life.

What should you include in a health diary?  Whatever you find helpful to note.  Your entries don't have to be long.  You might jot down one or two words on subjects like the following:

1)  Physical and emotional symptoms
2)  Whether today was an energy day or a tire day
3)  Where you are in your menstrual cycle
4)  What the daily pollen count or mold count is in your area.
5)  What you ate, particularly if you noticed a stomach upset after a meal or a reaction to any one food.
6)  Your body's reaction to gluten, diary, nightshades, or chocolate.  (You might want to track just one of these at a time).
7)  weather patterns in your area

As you keep this diary, look for patterns in it.  Are your symptoms worse before a rain?  After a rain?  Do you feel awesome on a low pollen count day?  Do your symptoms wax and wane in a predictable pattern or do they seem random?  

Make special note of times you are feeling well.  Record happy things like the beauty of a spring afternoon, even if you don't feel well that day.  Create some happy patterns to look for so that your focus is not entirely on your limitations.  There is always a reason to rejoice in a given day, and we must train ourselves to find that reason. We are more than our disease, and there is more to life than our unpleasant symptoms.  Keeping note of the good along with the hard times provides a balanced view of our life.  That can go along way to helping us fight the depression and frustration that often accompanies illness, particularly thyroid disease.  

Knowledge of our body and its connection to internal and external factors can equip us to cope with our illness.  If we do find a cyclical pattern to our symptoms, for example, we can be proactive about making extra time for rest as we approach a possible down time.  We can tweak our diet to our body's particular needs.  We can better understand the up and down nature of our ailments, which will help us understand that a bad day, week, or month will likely be followed by a day of better health.  

Hang in there! 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Stepping Up!

By now, everyone's heard of the 10,000 steps a day method of gaining fitness and losing weight.  We've all also heard of the study of an Old Order Amish community, in which the men generally average 18,000 steps a day and the women, 14,000 a day.  This reflects the rural lifestyle that was common in most parts of the world, including the U.S., until some point in the twentieth century.  The Old Order Amish who farm generally don't have any problems with obesity.  (Interestingly, those who manage stores and are more sedentary are more prone to being overweight than their more active counterparts.)   It's my belief that our bodies were meant to move and not to sit, sit, sit.

As I discussed in my last post, there are some who think that exercise that is too strenuous might be counterproductive for people who are hypothyroid.  Some think that burnout of the adrenal glands often accompanies hypothyroid issues and that over-exercising only makes that worse.  However, there are so many ways that exercise can help those of us with thyroid issues that we can't afford not to partake of it in some fashion.

Achieving 10,000 steps a day does not necessarily require you to walk at such a high intensity that your exercise efforts could backfire.  If you, like me, live a typical modern lifestyle, however, you probably will have to spend time in dedicated walking.  This is a good time to build stamina.  As you become fitter, you might find that you can up the intensity of your exercise a bit without overtaxing your adrenals and thyroid. Some people believe that at least part of your stepping routine should be at high intensity.  People who have struggled with hypothyroid for a long time and who are out of shape, overweight, and possibly fighting one or more immune diseases shouldn't feel that they need to jump right there.  Building up slowly is wise.  

Adding more steps to your day has been known to help many health problems.  I have a good friend with type 2 diabetes who has greatly improved her health through taking 10,000 steps a day and watching what she eats.

I'm using myself as a guinea pig to see how the 10,000 steps program might work for a person with thyroid issues.  I started doing it a few months ago, but I was sidelined when I caught a respiratory virus and had complications related to asthma afterward.  I think I might have jumped in too quickly and that I over-stressed my immune system.  I've been trying again lately, though.  In one short week, I am seeing an increase in energy and a lessening of brain fog.  I'll keep you posted on how my experiment goes.

Some say that to actually lose weight and keep it off, you should work up to at least 13,000 steps a day.  Again, no one should jump right to such a goal.  The usual advice is to wear a pedometer for a week without changing your routine.  At the end of a week, you can average your daily steps to come up with a current daily step range.  To this range, add about 500 steps a day for the next week and so forth.  Gradually, over many weeks, you will reach your ultimate step goal.  You'll begin to see benefits long before you reach your goal, especially if your beginning point falls into the range of a sedentary lifestyle.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Hypothyroid disease: What about exercise?

First the sobering news:  Since the thyroid gland controls our metabolism, producing too little thyroid hormone puts us at risk for exhaustion.  Hypothyroidism can also cause neuromuscular and musculoskeletal problems, including muscle weakness.  Likewise, when you have thyroid disease, levels of certain beneficial chemicals, such as lactic acid, can build up too much in your muscles, leading to pain. As is well known, hypothyroidism can lead to weight gain. It can also up heart disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and it can even lead to balance problems in older women with hypothyroidism.  I don't know about you, but, even though I like exercise, I find these symptoms can drain my usual motivation.

Of course, when treated properly, many of these effects are reversed.  Even when treated, however, a patient may be left with a reduced exercise capacity. We might still carry extra weight that we gained before treatment. We might have lost conditioning before being diagnosed and treated.  We may still have some heart risk factors that need watching by our doctor.  Additionally, some people find that even with treatment, they still feel fatigued.  I'm no expert, but based on my own experience, I believe that the underlying causes of hypothyroid disease -- such as Hashimoto's -- can still cause effects even when the thyroid is being treated.

Well, enough of that.  Let's move on to the good stuff.  Even though we may not feel as much like exercising as we did before we became hypothyroid, the right quantity and the right quality of exercise can help us combat some of the symptoms of the disease.  Of course, you first need a doctor's ok, especially since hypothyroidism does affect our risk factors for heart disease.  Most likely, your physician will find that you are well enough to exercise and, what's more, he will probably rejoice that you want to exercise, as it can help reverse the heart risk factors.  You do need to be sure that you are cleared for exercise, though.

Once you have your doctor's ok, it's good to evaluate your level of conditioning before jumping into a new exercise routine.  Questions to consider are:  How long has it been since you last exercised?  Has it been a while?  If so, do you need to start slowly?  Or, are you already exercising regularly, but feeling discouraged that you can't make progress?  Do you find that your current exercise program is too much for you, and do you have days of exhaustion?  Do you take a rest day at least once a week?  Is your current exercise routine too light to help you progress or is your body ready for a change?

I find that exercises that have a stretching component are helpful for the issues surrounding muscle aches. I love mat Pilates. One benefit of Pilates is that it was developed as an exercise system and is based on a study of human anatomy. However, since Joseph Pilates drew up his original system, scientists have discovered new information about the spine and spinal health. Some Pilates teachers take this newer information into account and have adjusted their teaching styles accordingly, and I advocate this newer approach. Others teach classical Pilates just as Joeseph Pilates did. If you do your research, you can modify either the classical or newer mat Pilates exercises for your needs. This is especially essential if you have osteoporosis. There are many articles that have been written about how to practice Pilates safely if you have osteoporosis. In addition to Pilates, I also love dance based stretching programs.

What about yoga?  I am not a huge fan, though that is an individual decision, of course.  Yoga was developed as a part of Hindu worship and not as a system of exercise for fitness' sake. Contrary to our popular American idea, it wasn't intended for stress relief or for physical conditioning.  Thus, yoga postures aren't necessarily designed with the needs of our muscular-skeletal system in mind.  In fact, yoga can worsen back and joint problems, which is counter-productive for those of us with muscular-skeletal issues. Likewise, certain postures are hard on the neck and, in ultra-rare cases, have even been known to trigger stroke.  If you do love yoga, educate yourself so that you know which postures are generally safe and which to avoid or modify.

One book that I find to be a great help is "Stretching" by Suzanne Martin, who is a physical therapist. She provides stretches that are designed to improve posture and also to correct certain physical problems. It is grounded in exercise science.  As far as I can tell, it avoids any problems that results from too frequent forward flexion of the spine as is sometimes found in both Pilates and yoga.  A physical therapist could give a more definite opinion on that.

Exercise DVD's that I find helpful are Ann Smith's exercise videos (This Amazing Woman is in her eighties!) and Fhinis Yhung's Ballet Plus.  I find it helpful to do at least a little stretching, even on days when my energy is lower.

Cardio exercise is where some of the biggest payoffs are for a hypothyroid patient. Exercise that gets us moving will help raise our metabolisms, burn calories, and, perhaps, lower insulin levels, all of which are beneficial to the hypothyroid patient.

Can cardio exercise help get rid of any unwanted gain due to hypothyroidism?  Absolutely.  In fact, we who have thyroid issues may need the boost exercise gives us, for we are unlikely to lose weight through dieting alone.  On the other hand, we probably won't be able to lose weight via exercise alone, either, and we will have to restrict our calories in some way.  It will take a balanced program for us to see weight loss.  The key is not to get discouraged, but to be happy about any progress.

You might want to investigate the 10,000 steps a day walking program.  All you need for this is a pedometer and a supportive pair of shoes.  To take 10,000 steps a day, you will likely do some walking that qualifies as cardio and some slower steps that you work into your day's routine.  Researchers have found that people, such as the Amish, who take as much as 14,000 steps in the course of an average day are likely maintain a healthy weight without thinking about it.  Be sure not to jump straight to taking 10,000 steps a day if you aren't already used to that.  As with any exercise program, start slow and ramp up as your condition improves.  If that doesn't appeal to you, you can probably see great results by a regular walking program.

There is some thought that overdoing cardio exercise (or any form of exercise other than light stretching) can put too much stress on the system of someone with hypothyroidism.  Our bodies are less efficient at recovering from exercise.  Additionally, stress, even physical stress, can make symptoms flare. You might want to keep an exercise journal and record how you feel each week.  If you find yourself becoming more exhausted rather than more energized, tweak your exercise schedule and try again.  Be sure to allow yourself the rest time that you need.  You may need quite a bit of rest in the beginning if you have been out of condition.  If you do cardio exercise for awhile and find yourself consistently run down, ask the advice of an exercise expert who truly understands hypothyroid disease. 

Don't forget the benefits of healthy movement, such as gardening or housework.  If you've really become weak and out of condition due to being hypothyroid, adding 15 minutes here and 15 minutes there of any task that gets you moving can help you slowly improve your health and fitness level.

Strengthening muscles can also benefit someone who has lost muscle tone because of hypothyroid disease. This may or may not mean working with weights.  Healthy activity and exercises that depend on body weight can help you improve your fitness in this area.  Pilates and dance exercise also strengthen certain muscles, so if you do exercises like these you can combine the benefits of stretching and muscle building. Cross training will provide all three benefits: cardio, strength and stretching.

Consistency in exercise is an important issue for hypothyroid patients.  It's better to do lighter exercise consistently than to wear yourself into the ground with a program that's too aggressive for you.  Additionally, if you have other autoimmune problems or a vulnerable immune system, you might find that you will exercise for a while, only to have a bout when you either can't exercise or you must reduce your exercise for a time. It's important not to let a setback make you give up, but to try again.                        

Note:  Thyroid disease, either hyper or hypo, can affect your resting and exercise heart rates. If you have any questions about the best heart-rate range for your exercise, ask your doctor or a qualified trainer to help you set a goal that is right for you.

Happy exercise!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Functioning with Brain Fog -- Part III

From Flickr by David Schulman

1) On foggy days, we have to pay more attention to the things that we can do on a good day without thinking.  That's tough because our brains feel tired, and we don't want to concentrate.  It's good to remember that a little extra focus up front can save us the brain tiring effort of going back and fixing something.
2) Likewise, we can't multitask as well, either. Go slowly.  Stay calm.  Tackle things in small bits. This can be hard to do if a circumstance calls for complex multitasking.  If you work in a busy, fast-paced workplace, for example, or if you have a busy family, you might find yourself being called to think about several things at once. Others may become impatient with your need to slow things down in order to cope with them. Don't assume that others can read your mind and that they will instinctively know that you need some breathing from to process things. Ask politely if you can have a moment to think things through or to finish one task before going on to the next.   
3) Phone calls, emails, and texts will wait. Unless its an emergency or a very special message, don't feel that you have to answer every single one the moment it comes in. Focus on what needs to be done most in the moment and return messages later, when you have the time and energy to give those messages your full concentration.   
4) Store medicines in containers that have a compartment marked for each day.  Even if you take only a thyroid pill and a vitamin, it will eliminate those, "Did I take my thyroid med today?" moments.  It will also keep you from overdosing or under-dosing.  Since the timing of thyroid medication affects your thyroid levels, it's important to keep this straight.     
5) On foggy days, it's hard to make even small decisions. That's a good time to remember that many decisions in our daily life are a matter of choosing between two fairly good options.  Also, with many decisions, you can change later if you find that you've chosen the less satisfactory option.

To your health!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Functioning with Brain Fog Part II

Wanderer Above the Fog
Do we have to wander in the fog?  There are some practical things we can do to find our way:

1)  Here's one I learned from a web site about lupus:  Use your phone to take a photograph of your car in a parking space.  Make sure that you include some permanent landmark or a parking lot are identification sign.  You'll be able to find your car on even your foggiest days.  In fact, taking pictures with your cell phone camera can help you remember all kinds of things.
2)  Break your day down into small increments. You might even think in terms of only one hour or a half-hour. Pick one or two simple things you can accomplish, and do them.  If you can handle more, pick another. If not, do something restful until the next period. Don't fret about the big picture, but do what you can.
3)  If your brain fog worsens or hangs on for days on end, be tested to make sure that you are receiving enough thyroid replacement hormone.  Note:  In the days before thyroid hormone replacement was available, there were people who became comatose and died of the condition. A lack of thyroid hormone can dangerously impair mental functioning, though this is usually reversible when given the right medical attention. This is nothing to try to treat totally on your own, without medical help.
4)  Sometimes, light exercise is helpful.  Sometimes, rest is helpful.  Getting outside for a walk is always a good idea if you can manage it.
5)  Have a couple of healthy snacks and drink water throughout the day.  Plan how many snacks you will allow yourself, however, and don't graze all day in the hopes that food will give you energy and focus.
6)  Sticky notes, index cards, computer calendars, and cell phone alarms can all be great methods for giving yourself reminders of things.  Also, accept that you might not remember your schedule as easily as you once did. You will have to look at your calendar!  I say this to myself, because I love jotting things down in my calendar, but always (wrongly) think I can wing it without looking back at what I've written down.
7) Check your time and quality of sleep at night.  If you are having sleep problems, that will contribute to the feeling of daytime fog.
8)  Think positively; count your blessings.  Are you worried?  Depressed?  Brain fog often has physiological origins and is not necessarily an indication of emotional distress.  However, being preoccupied with anxiety or weighed down by depression can also cause brain fog.  Likewise, having brain fog can be a source of frustration, worry, and embarrassment in itself.  It can shake up your sense of who you are and what you can accomplish.  Doing what you can to stay faithful and positive can help.
9) When you feel well, organize your house to make things easier when you have brain fog.  For example, put essential, bare minimum, daily cosmetics in a cosmetic bag and stash it where you can grab it easily.  Group cleaning supplies together.  Have some in each bathroom.  Keep easy to prepare meals on hand or make extra food to freeze.
10)  Use brain fog days to accomplish some soothing craft project that doesn't require a lot of intricate thought.  Give yourself permission to spend an hour on a hobby that you might ordinarily think you are too busy to tackle, provided that it's not something that will frustrate you.

Be well!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Functioning with Brain Fog -- Part I.

Journey to the Eternity by Baban Shyam Flickr
The goal, of course, is to feel well enough that we never experience brain fog.  For a lot of us, however, brain fog is at least a temporary, if not permanent, symptom that we have to battle.   It seems to be common to all autoimmune diseases and especially in conditions that make you hypothyroid.  Others who experience brain fog are people with CFS or fibromyalgia, women in menopause or other times of hormonal shifts, and patients who are going through cancer treatments. For most of us, brain fog comes and goes, just as real fog drifts in when conditions are right and evaporates in the sunshine.

The technical term for this problem is cognitive dysfunction.  I personally describe it as episodic cognitive dysfunciton, for it is not the same as a more permanently settled cognitive issue.

What does this clouding of the consciousness feel like?  For me, it can be something just short of a headache, where my brain seems swollen.  Or, it can be a fatigue so deep that it hinders quick decision making.  It can hamper with short term memory or make concentrating difficult.  Sometimes, it can feel as if my brain is stuffed with cotton.  For me, a change in weather or air pressure may worsen an episode.        

Because cloudy thinking is a subjective experience, it is difficult to measure and to treat.  At any given time, a sufferer might be experiencing one or multiple causes.  Some of these causes can be pinpointed through laboratory tests.  Others are more nebulous and might need some sleuthing on your part and on the part of your physician to detect.  Still others may be unknown to current medical science.

As hard as it is to define and treat, brain fog strikes a chord with anyone who's suffered from it.  He or she may not be able to describe it accurately but will know exactly what you mean when you say you have cotton brain today.     

There are a number of theories about why brain fog occurs. Here's one that makes sense to me:  a failing thyroid leads to a slowing of both your metabolism and blood flow, as well as underproduction of certain brain chemicals. Thus, the cognitive centers in your brain do not receive the nourishment or energy that they require to function at their peak.

I suspect this is so.  I know that for me, I have experienced the most brain fog either before my Hashimoto's was properly diagnosed or at times right before tests have shown that I have needed an increase in my thyroid medicine.  With every increase, my symptoms improved -- at least for a good while. :)  This is just a guess, but I imagine that fluctuations in thyroid performance might account for the episodic nature of brain fog.

A similar theory is that in anyone with an autoimmune disease, the body is so focused on your illness that it goes into survival mode. It redirects energy and blood away from parts of the brain and body that are not essential to immediate survival toward body and brain processes that will aid in fighting the disease.  This is somewhat like the lethargy you might feel when your body's in attack mode against acute infections, such as the flu.  At such times, your body's focus is not on delivering some pep or making sure you've balanced your bank account.  It's main goal is to defeat an invader -- real or not -- and to keep you alive.  

Other theories are that an autoimmune condition can interrupt the restorative sleep that you need to function both mentally and physically, that Hashimoto's hypothyroidism might co-exist with iron and other energy sapping deficiencies, Hashimoto's might affect blood sugar levels, Hashmioto's might result in mental distraction due to anxiety or depression, undertreatment or wrong treatment of Hashimoto's affects metabolism, having a second autoimmune disease or fibromyalgia along with Hashimoto's multiplies cognitive difficulties, cardiovascular disease slows blood flow to the brain, or medicaiton used to treat symptoms might contribute to a sense of mental cloudiness. 

I have even read a theory that any of us, even the healthiest, can have brain fog when we refuse to "see" something in our life clearly; in other words, we don't want to admit a painful conflict, so we subconsciously subvert our own mental clarity.  I think this last one takes the cloudy metaphor too far, but who knows?   I suppose any emotional or physical stress can sap our acuity.       

Regarding iron, I was considered borderline anemic for many years.  I do think that this was because I was in my childbearing years.  However, research suggests that Hashimoto's disease may be associated with either iron levels that are too low or iron levels that are dangerously high, the latter of which can contribute to clogging of your arteries.  Anemia can cause some of the same symptoms as low thyroid, including brain fog.  If you are suffering from cloudy thinking, it might be wise to ask your doctor to check your iron levels. If low iron is the problem, you will see almost instant relief with treatment.

Whatever the cause of brain fog, there are ways to cope with it.  I'll be talking about that in future posts. 

To your health!



Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Vitamin C and thyroid medicine...

Did you know that some research indicates that taking your thyroid replacement hormone with vitamin C might help you better absorb the hormone?  The vitamin C used in the study was mixed in the water that subjects drank when taking their pills.  This is important because eating at the same time you take your medicine can interfere with the body's ability to take it in and use it.

This finding does make some sense to me, as Vitamin C helps your body take in other nutrients, such as iron.  On the other hand, absorption of the thyroid hormone is generally best achieved by taking it with a glass of pure water at least one half to one hour before eating breakfast in the morning and by taking vitamins and minerals no closer than four hours to the time that you take your thyroid pill.  Many vitamins and minerals interfere with the body's uptake of thyroid replacement hormones.

The vitamin C effect seems to help those who are taking thyroid replacement hormone, but who are not seeing a decrease in their TSH levels or an improvement in their symptoms. As I have seen a reduction in my TSH levels, I'm not ready to jump on the bandwagon yet as far as taking vitamin C at the same time as my thyroid pill.  However, I don't think it can hurt to make sure that I have adequate vitamin C in my diet.  One habit that I want to get back to is setting out a pitcher containing my daily goal for water in the morning and drinking some of that water with a little lemon juice.  I find that I am less tempted to snack, snack, snack, if I drink adequate water during the day. 

I've experimented with a lot of different vitamin supplements.  It just so happens that I feel best when taking Emergen-C, which has a lot of vitamin C in it.  I suspect that my sense of well-being when I take the Emergen-C might have more to do with the fact that it has magnesium in it than the vitamin C. Some think that magnesium can help with some symptoms associated with thyroid issues and other symptoms of other problems that I have.  Taking too much magnesium can backfire on you as it can affect your heart beat.  Emergen-C seems to have the right amount for me.  This is just my hunch based on personal experience, though, and not a scientific observation.  Who knows?  It might be the vitamin C that helps.  I do not take the Emergen-C within four hours of taking my thyroid replacement hormone.  I do not take this every day, however.

As with any vitamin supplement that we ingest, there are some risks associated with taking vitamin C.  In some cases, vitamin C supplements may contribute to heart disease and hardening of the arteries.  Conversely, vitamin C in the foods you eat can actually protect the heart and arteries.  It's always best to get your nutrition from food if you can. Some foods that contain vitamin C are citrus, strawberries, kiwi fruit, papayas, peppers, and leafy green vegetables.  Again, don't eat food with your thyroid hormone; wait the prescribed time.

So, in short, my goal is to drink more water and to add just a little lemon or orange to provide a little vitamin C.  I also hope to eat more fruits and veggies, which will add vitamin C to my diet.  Because my TSH level does improve with thyroid hormone replacement, I do not think that I need to consume my vitamin C at the same time I take my thyroid pill.  As always, evaluate your own situation and consult with your own doctor before making a decision. 



Monday, May 20, 2013

Step one in my plan to see how much I can improve my health

Seeking God
Can you identify with the woman described in this incident from Christ's life on earth?

A large crowd followed and pressed around him. 25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.
30 At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”
31 “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’
32 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”
Mark 5: 24-34
Doctors are great, but they don't have all of the answers.  Ultimately, Jesus is the only one who does.  Sometimes, he heals us; sometimes, he gives us strength to endure.  Always, he works good in our situation, as we read in Romans 8.      

Jesus suffered in many ways, most especially upon the cross.  Because of that, we can approach him with confidence that he will understand our pain and have compassion for us.
 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin.  Hebrews 4:15
I love the compassion that Jesus had for the woman whose story is told in Mark 5.  He was on his way to help with what seemed to be a more urgent matter -- a little girl was ill to the point of dying. There was a crowd of people around him, pressing on him.  A distressed father was by his side.  His disciples were asking how he could focus on one person touching him when a whole crowd of people were jostling about him.  Jesus could have felt pressured by the tumultuous surroundings to to know that someone had touched him and had been physically healed and to just pass on by for the child's sake. On my own little level, I have been in situations where several people or several things needed my attention at once, and I just felt flustered. Christ, on the other hand, had the poise to stop and calmly tend to the remaining needs of the person who had touched him.  He put aside the pressure of the crowds, his disciples, and the worried father in order to give her a few moments of his full attention.

From the woman's point of view, she had bounced around from doctor to doctor, giving them all of her money in exchange for treatments that hadn't worked.  Who knows how she might have gotten her hope of recovery up time and time again, only to be dashed.  Perhaps, some of the doctors believed that the cures they offered would help; perhaps, some of them took advantage of her desperation by knowingly selling her a quack cure.  We don't know.  We do know that her condition rendered her unclean in her society.  By touching a person, she might have even rendered that person unclean for the day.  Thus, she probably felt that she had no right to call out to Jesus loudly for help.  She may not even have wanted to call attention to herself or to what might be an embarrassing condition.  Yet, she believed that if she could just touch Christ's cloak she would be healed, and her faith was rewarded, for she was immediately made well.  For the first time, her touch did not render someone else unclean for a day.  Instead, the power of Jesus in the exchange made her clean and whole. 

Instead of saying, "Oh well, someone's been healed.  That person's ok for now.  Let me hurry to the child's bedside," Jesus stopped.  He knew that whoever had touched him needed more than just a physical cure.  This person needed Jesus' personal attention and love.  She also needed to be restored to the community as a well and whole woman.  He searched for the person who had touched him.

The woman came trembling to Jesus, and she told the truth that she had been the one to receive his healing power.   Sometimes, talking out what is in our hearts is as healing for us as any physical cure might be.

Jesus spoke tenderly to her and called her "daughter".  He recognized her as a person instead of just an anonymous face in the crowd.  He said that her faith had healed her.  He sent her away in peace and freed her from her suffering.  He publicly pronounced her well and clean and approved her faith, which would go a long way in healing not only her private situation but her relationships.  He met not only her physical needs, but her spiritual and emotional needs, as well.  In effect, he gave her shalom, which is wholeness, peace, and well-being in every area. 

As Jesus was then, he is now.  Whatever we are going through, he had compassion for us.  We are not just  anonymous faces to him; he knows each of us better than we even know ourselves.  He knows what we need.  He gives us grace, mercy, and strength.  What a Savior!

Because he gives us such mercy and love, we, in turn, can focus on loving others.  Sometimes, our Hashimoto's may mean that we don't have as much energy to serve others as we might like.  We can usually pray for others, though, or make a phone call or do at least something to let others know that we care.  Loving God and others gives our life a meaning that transcends any physical illness.  It reminds us that we were so much more than our disease.

I've found that becoming too focused on my symptoms only makes me anxious, sad, or frustrated.  Keeping my life fully centered on God lifts me out of that.  Loving God and others gives our lives a meaning that transcends any physical illness.  It reminds us that we were so much more than our disease!




Sunday, May 19, 2013

Symptoms that are common to autoimmune diseases

Disorders of the thyroid, including the autoimmune diseases known as Grave's and Hashimoto's, have symptoms that are specific to them.  In fact, each autoimmune disease currently known to medical science will have its own particular issues.  However, there are symptoms that are commonly found in nearly all autoimmune diseases.  I think it's interesting to consider what these might be as they might give us a clue to treating the autoimmune dysfunction that comes with Hashimoto's.  Perhaps, improving one's overall health might lesson these typical expressions by the body of chronic distress.  

Why do I illustrate this with a picture of a bed?  If you have an autoimmune disease, you know the answer!  I'm sure you can relate to the unrelenting fatigue that is part of any autoimmune problem.  You may need more sleep and more rest than a well person does.  Even on your best days, you might feel like you are doing 25mph in the highway of life, while others are happily speeding past you.   There are any number of illnesses besides an autoimmune problem that can cause this same kind of weariness.  Any chronic tiredness or any profound change in your energy levels should be evaluated by a physician.

In addition to unusual tiredness, here are some other cross-symptoms of autoimmune problems:

 1)  Depression:  It's not always clear whether this is part of the cause or a result of feeling unwell over a long period of time.
2)  Muscle aches/joint aches
3)  Brain fog!! Memory problems, problems focusing or concentrating
4)  Muscle weakness
5)  low grade fever -- (Hashimoto's, however, can lead to low body temperatures)
6)  swollen lymph glands
7)  frequent infections
8) sudden changes in weight
9)  hair loss
10)  feeling of heaviness when you breathe, shortness of breath
11)  tingling, numbness in limbs
12)  itchy skin, skin rashes
13)  dry eyes
14)  heart palpitations
15)  recurrent miscarriages

Other things that you might watch out for are mouth ulcers, abdominal pains, sweats, and alternating diarrhea and constipation.

Not everyone who has an autoimmune disease will experience every one of these symptoms. If you have several of them, however, it might be a clue that you do, indeed, have an autoimmune problem.

Further Reading:  

Wishing you great health!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Be Kind to the Butterfly...

I have chronic hypothyroid issues which,  according to my endocrinologist, are most likely related to the autoimmune disease known as Hashimoto's Disease.  In addition to Hashi's, I also suffer from allergies and asthma.   Both of these conditions have genetic components.   My mother and her sister both had thyroid problems, and my grandfather and other relatives have suffered from asthma.  On top of all that, I have recently gone through menopause.  As you can imagine, I have some pretty rugged hours as far as my health is concerned.  I rejoice, though, that Hashi's and asthma are treatable diseases and that menopause is a natural process. 

Because the thyroid is shaped somewhat like a butterfly, it is nicknamed "the butterfly gland".  I don't think if we actually held a thyroid gland in our hands, we'd think it looked much like a butterfly -- other than a slight resemblance in shape.  LOL    I happen to love butterflies, though, so I love the butterfly nickname. 

I have decided that this is my year to give my body the support that it needs so that I can feel the best that I can.  In that sense, I do want to treat my thyroid gland as I would a butterfly.  Whenever I see butterflies, I am moved to thank God for them, to appreciate their beauty and purpose, and to treat them gently.  In the same way, I want to be grateful for all the tasks that my thyroid gland performs in my body and to treat it gently, as well.

There's a lot of controversy on the Internet about how to treat Hashimoto's.  As with any chronic auto-immune disease, it can leave you feeling so drained that you will try most anything to get some energy.  The treatments that can save our lives may not bring us all the way to abundant health.  The desperation of Hashi's sufferers sometimes drives them away from evidence based medicine to more alternative cures, some of which have very little scientific evidence backing them. Likewise, there is a movement to use the pig or bovine replacement hormones that were prescribed by doctors before synthetic thyroid hormones were developed.  There are pros and cons to using the animal derived hormones.  I will explore that issue later but won't go into it in this introduction.

I, personally, regularly visit my internist and an endocrinologist.  Within certain guidelines, I am willing to consider alternative perspectives, too.  After all, it can't hurt to try changes in diet, environment, exercise, and stress management.  Even if these do not cure Hashi's or even treat it, there is every possibility that such changes will  contribute to an overall sense of well-being.  I don't consider these a replacement for treatment by doctors who know the science of the thyroid and how it works in the body, however.  Neither, do I consider these as replacements for thyroid medicine, whether it is synthesized from a pig's gland or from other substances.  I would encourage anyone with hypothyroid (or hyperthyroid) symptoms not to treat this disease on your own.  The thyroid gland controls so much in the body, and diseases that affect it are nothing to play around with.      

I have a friend who ignored her doctors' advice to take thyroid replacement hormone, and she ended up suffering and eventually having to have her thyroid taken out.  There are different forms of hypothyroid issues, some of which are temporary and do resolve with time and rest.  Hashi's is not one of those!  Neither is the opposite problem, Grave's disease.  Don't take risks with your health!  Consult a doctor who can give you solid, evidence-based information and guidance.

We can rejoice that there is treatment today!  In the past, people died from severe thyroid issues (and still do when it is not treated).  While I am open to alternative treatments, I don't consider science based doctors to be the enemy that many alternative medicine devotees make them out to be.  I believe that we take modern advances in medicine for granted and don't realize just how far science-based medicine has brought us all toward greater health in less than two hundred years.  I see God's hand working in the process of medical scientists who study the bodies God so wonderfully made.

Likewise, there are those on the net who are so skeptical of anything alternative medicine offers that they reject anything from that realm out of hand.  Here again, God has provided us with healthy choices, some of which are emphasized more in the realm of alternative medicine than in science based medicine.  So, I hope to avoid extremes.  I want to sample the best of both worlds to see what works for me.  If you are going to lean just one way, though, I'd implore you to lean with the science.   

Standing above all doctors, medical advisers, and Internet gurus is the Lord.  My ultimate trust is not in doctors or in my ability to manage my disease, but in God.  It is he who made us and who knows what we need.

This blog will document my stewardship of my health, and I'll post what things I find work for me and what things don't. I will also curate articles about thyroid health. I hope that the material will be of help to any of you who also suffer with an autoimmune disease -- particularly thyroid disease -- or who simply want to do what they can to feel better.  And, you will probably also find that you have something to offer that I can learn from.   I'd love to hear from you, especially if you're on the Hashi's journey with me.